W. Mark Lanier
HOUSTON, Texas (Legal Newsline)--The famed Houston plaintiffs' attorney who Thursday saw a Texas appeals court toss out his client's $26.1 million verdict against Merck & Co. Inc. over the company's drug Vioxx said his client will appeal.
Merck took Vioxx, a non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug, off pharmacy shelves in September 2004, after an internal study showed that Vioxx doubles risk of heart attack or stroke.
The 14th Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck was not responsible for the death of Robert Ernst, 59, who suffered a fatal heart problem from a blood clot allegedly triggered by the once-popular medication. He died in 2001.
"Activist judges are protecting corporate executives and stripping away the rights of widows and every other victim of corporate misconduct. We are filing an appeal," said attorney W. Mark Lanier, who represented Ernst's widow, Carol Ernst.
Lanier said the decision was rendered by a panel of judges who "regularly accept campaign contributions from law firms representing corporations that appear in their courts."
He added that he is prepared to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
In August 2005, Ernst's widow had won a $253 million verdict against Merck in 2005, but Texas' punitive damage award caps reduced the award to $26.1 million.
The Fourteenth Court of Appeals, in its decision Thursday, said while "the epidemiological evidence supports the conclusion that Vioxx use at a certain dose and duration is associated with an increased risk of thrombotic cardiovascular events," there is no evidence to support a claim.
"We find no evidence that Ernst suffered a thrombotic cardiovascular event, i.e., a myocardial infraction triggered by a blood clot. Accordingly, appellee failed to show that the ingestion of Vioxx caused her husband's death," Chief Justice Adele Hedges wrote.
Also on the three-judge panel were Justices John Anderson and Jeff Brown.
Merck says that of the 18 plaintiffs whose Vioxx cases went to trial, only three have outstanding judgments against the pharmaceutical company.
In a statement, Merck's executive vice president and general counsel Bruce Kuhlik said the company is happy that the justices found that Merck was not liable for Ernst's death.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.